After an improbably poignant first season — generally overcoming the well-endowed-man-becomes-male-prostitute premise — “Hung” has hung a couple of wrong turns. Despite fine moments, the producers have accentuated some of the least-interesting characters, diluting the focus from the central pairing of Ray Drecker (Thomas Jane) — said ho’ — and Tanya (Jane Adams), his slightly addled, terribly needy pimp. The result, four episodes in, is a series that still harbors certain charms but risks drifting toward the bottom of the TiVo queue if it keeps, pardon the expression, dicking around like this.
“Hung’s” freshman stint actually took a salacious premise and delivered a timely look at struggling Midwesterners in economically depressed Michigan. Ray and Tanya’s budding business thus became an act of desperation, as well as an intriguing relationship between two people joined by need.
Season two, unfortunately, takes that start and heads in the wrong direction. Additional tension is brought into Ray and Tanya’s arrangement by the predatory Lenore (Rebecca Creskoff), who seems intent on big-footing Tanya out of their three-way deal. Meanwhile, Ray continues to pine for and not-so-subtly woo his unhappy ex-wife (Anne Heche), who, like most TV ex-wives, isn’t a character you really yearn to hang out with.
The series does add some nifty new wrinkles, the best being Tanya soliciting pimping advice from a more seasoned pro (the always terrific Lennie James), who advises her to rein in Ray by solving his problems for him. Ray also takes on a new client — a very pregnant woman (Kathryn Hahn) who’s separated from her husband — that makes him understandably uncomfortable.
Still, the time spent with Heche’s character and her second hubby (Eddie Jemison), as well as Ray’s not-very-interesting day job as a struggling high-school coach and the Drecker kids all feel like distractions, limiting the highlights in each of these early half-hours.
That’s too bad, though perhaps not surprising. Despite its rather crass come-on, “Hung” was always a rather delicate construct, one that HBO has somewhat awkwardly paired with the lightweight “Entourage.” (For more on that show’s new season, see variety.com/bltv).
While the idea of having a protagonist who’s hung like a horse appears to be in the zeitgeist (witness MTV’s “The Hard Times of RJ Berger”), barring a quick turnaround, this promising HBO dramedy could wind up being a one-trick pony.